Mayor Eric Adams defended his administration’s dismantling of homeless encampments Tuesday, saying critics ask him, “‘Are you doing it because you want the city to look better?’ No, I want us to do better.”

Doing better for Adams means having city shelters where homeless people want to stay, especially with so many saying they feel safer on the streets and subways.

What You Need To Know

  • Mayor says people in encampments like the one in Williamsburg weren't living in dignity

  • He says he'll show people experiencing homelessness what Safe Haven beds look like using brochures

  • Homeless advocates say dismantling encampments may be pushing people further away from services

“People are going to joke about it, laugh about it. They’re going to do caricatures about it,” he said Tuesday morning. “But we’re going to go with brochures and show, here’s what a Safe Haven bed looks like. This is where you’re going to.”

The vow to improve and expand shelter options came as Adams marked the opening of a new Safe Haven shelter in the South Bronx later Tuesday, the site serving as an alternative to traditional shelters and offering supportive services.

“I’m telling you, we in safe hands,” said homeless advocate Shams DaBaron at the ribbon-cutting.

Adams’ remarks also came as Department of Sanitation workers took apart a long-standing encampment under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, displacing residents as part of a two-week blitz to remove about 180 such tent communities.

Advocates including the Coalition for the Homeless applauded Adams’ opening of Safe Haven and stabilization beds, but said of the removal of encampments, “Without offering homeless New Yorkers a better place to go, these are cruel public relations tactics that do not address the real problem, nor will they reduce unsheltered homelessness on our streets and subways.”

Adams said of conditions at the sites, “You should see the number of hypodermic needles on the ground, human waste. People are not allowed to take showers. They’re not allowed to take care of themselves. It’s just so undignified.”

The mayor added that his approach may not be what’s popular now, but it’s what’s best for the city in the long run.

“When you finally notice that you’re not going to have encampments anywhere, you’re not going to have people on your streets everywhere, you’re going to all of the sudden take this broccoli moment and understand that I made us a healthy city,” he said.

Adams also said he’s been conducting unannounced spot checks on the shelter system and has seen that they are suitable alternatives to the streets.

“I’m seeing clean housing for people where they’re able to get meals, they’re able to get showers,” he said. “Yes, we’re going to continue to do better, but it is better than sleeping on the street.”

There are 80 Safe Haven and stabilization beds available at the newly opened Morris Avenue site.

Adams said 350 of the 500 promised beds have come online this week around the city.